Published Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 6:49 pm
W-H editorial: Hagel should serve, again

Chuck Hagel should be the nation's next secretary of defense.

Nebraskans — and Nebraska's two U.S. senators — should strongly support his nomination.

This fourth-generation Nebraskan has served his country throughout his life — as a decorated combat infantryman in Vietnam; an aide to former Rep. John Y. McCollister, R-Neb.; deputy administrator of the U.S. Veterans Administration; as a two-term senator elected by his fellow Nebraskans; and most recently as co-chairman of President Barack Obama's Intelligence Advisory Board and member of the Defense Policy Board.

Hagel is the president's choice to head the Defense Department, and he deserves confirmation from the Senate.

Yes, Hagel at times has rubbed some fellow Republicans the wrong way, such as his support last fall for the Senate bid of longtime friend, fellow Vietnam vet and Democrat Bob Kerrey. But Sens. Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer and their colleagues need to look at the bigger picture and think about what's best for the state and the nation.

That's confirming Hagel, who would bring many strengths to this post. As the first former enlisted soldier to head the Pentagon, Hagel would offer a unique perspective on when to use military force. He has been a success in business. He knows how Congress works. He is a longtime student of foreign policy.

The Pentagon faces serious challenges. The next defense secretary must engineer the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The Pentagon, like the rest of the government, must deal with spending reductions, including the automatic cuts already approved by Congress. Then there is strategy for dealing with foreign policy threats, including North Korea, Iran and terrorist groups. And there are the issues surrounding U.S. computer security and what current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned could be a “cyber Pearl Harbor.”

Regrettably, despite his qualifications, Hagel's opponents have sought to ambush him with old comments, misconceptions and misinformation, particularly in three areas — Israel, Iran and gay rights.

First, Israel. Hagel has been criticized over a reference to “the Jewish lobby” and for his attitude toward Israel. As we said in a previous editorial, Hagel needs to explain clearly what he meant. But any suggestion that he is anti-Jewish or anti-Israel is just wrong. As a senator, Hagel repeatedly supported aid for Israel. In his book, “America: Our Next Chapter,” he wrote: “There will always be a special and historic bond with Israel exemplified by our continued commitment to Israel's defense.” Dr. Aaron David Miller, who has advised six secretaries of state on the Middle East, wrote that Hagel “is a strong supporter of Israel and a believer in shared values.”

Second, critics contend that Hagel is somehow soft toward Iran and its nuclear ambitions. Hagel supports international economic sanctions on Iran. He has not ruled out the use of force but has wisely spoken in favor of keeping all options on the table. As Hagel told the history magazine Vietnam, “I'm not a pacifist. I believe in using force, but only after a very careful decision-making process.” That's the voice of a soldier who still carries shrapnel in his body.

After a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, do most Americans really view the thoughtful weighing of options as being out of the mainstream? No.

Finally, there is scrutiny of comments Hagel made 14 years ago, when he questioned the effectiveness of President Bill Clinton's nominee for ambassador to Luxembourg, James Hormel, and described him as “openly, aggressively gay.” Hagel has apologized, acknowledging that those 1998 comments were “insensitive.”

In the halls of the Pentagon and across the nation, attitudes on this issue have evolved, as has Hagel's. The comments, he said recently, “do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights. I am fully supportive of 'open service' and committed to LGBT military families.”

Former U.S. Ambassador Michael Guest, who is gay, wrote on the website Politico: “I found Hagel to be a man of integrity — honest and direct in his assessments and willing to seek common ground. He was true to his word. And if Hagel says he would fully implement the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' I take him at his word.”

Nine former top U.S. diplomats, including four former ambassadors to Israel who have worked with Hagel, wrote to Foreign Affairs magazine supporting his nomination. Their words are significant: “He has always supported the pillars of American foreign policy — such as: a strong NATO and Atlantic partnership; a commitment to the security of Israel, as a friend and ally; a determination to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons; and the defense of human rights as a core principle of America's role in the world.”

Chuck Hagel is the president's choice. He is highly qualified. He deserves the chance to serve his country again.

Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
Last day of 2014 Legislature: Praise, passage of a last few bills and more on mountain lions
'The war is not over,' Chambers says, but legislative session about is
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
PAC funded by Senate candidate Ben Sasse's great-uncle releases Shane Osborn attack ad
Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
When judge asks, Nikko Jenkins says ‘I killed them’
New UNO center strengthens ties between campus, community
Threat found in Millard West bathroom deemed 'not credible'
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
Nebrasks health officials to advertise jobs via drive-thru
Coral Walker named Omaha police officer of the year
Sarah Palin, Mike Lee coming to Nebraska for Ben Sasse rally
Prescription drug drop-off is April 26
Database: How much did Medicare pay your doctor?
Rather than doing $250K in repairs, owner who lives in lot behind 94-year-old house in Dundee razes it
NB 30th Street lane closed
State Patrol, Omaha police conduct vehicle inspections
Bernie Kanger formally promoted to Omaha fire chief
U.S. House incumbents have deeper pockets than their challengers
Nancy's Almanac, April 17, 2014: Trees save money
Ex-Iowan behind landmark free speech case recounts story in Bellevue
Gov. Heineman signs water bill; sponsor calls it 'landmark legislation'
Senate candidate Shane Osborn to include anti-tax activist Norquist in telephone town hall
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
A comical roast Wednesday night in Omaha brought fans of Creighton basketball laughter by the bucketful. This time it was McJokes, not McBuckets, that entertained the Bluejay crowd.
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Breaking Brad: How many MECA board members can we put in a luxury suite?
As a stunt at the Blue Man Group show, MECA board members are going to see how many people they can stuff into one luxury suite.
Kelly: New $24M UNO center embodies spirit of newlywed crash victim
Jessica Lutton Bedient was killed by a drunken driver at age 26 in 2010. Thursday, the widowed husband and other family members will gather with others at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to dedicate a permanent memorial to Jessica.
Breaking Brad: How much would you pay for a corn dog?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new concession item: a $25 corn dog. For that kind of money, it should be stuffed with Bitcoin.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Dr. Welbes Natural Health Clinic
$129 for 2 LipoLaser Sessions with Additional Complimentary Services ($605 value)
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »